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Following Is Not Easy

Part 4

By Paul Stachour

The second item is connection. What!? Connection again? Did I not already mention connection? Sigh. It is one thing when I realize that my connection skills are not up-to-par. It is something else when my dance-partner is indicating that I have connection issues. OK, OK, so I do have spaghetti arms. My frame collapses because I have spaghetti arms. I need to learn to hold the arms more rigid, and not let them collapse--in particular, to always keep my arms solidly in front of my body.

Allow me to provide an example from West Coast Swing. If I allow the leader to push my arm back towards my body (and hopefully not behind my body, that would be even weaker spaghetti), that means that the leader cannot turn me properly. That is why it took me about 6 months to be able to do the whip correctly, and why I still often get it wrong, moving as an individual and not as part of a pair. My dance partner accuses me of inattention, and I plead guilty.

Third, how do I explain the displacement comment? Displacement is a vector quantity, with both direction and distance components. The leader might indicate that I rotate slightly more or less than what is led. I am now facing in slightly the wrong direction, which means that my next step will not be in the desired direction. The leader might indicate that I take my steps either too short or too long. Either situation means that we do not get the desired distance, perhaps giving us a choppy look instead of a flowing one.

Allow me to provide an example from Foxtrot. If I am not oriented directionally with my partner, we could wind up further inside, further outside, or misoriented. If I am not moving my feet the right distance, we do don’t look good either. Since either of these has us moving to an unintended place, the leader might accuse me of trying to lead. What? Me try to lead? OK, OK. I am preventing the leader from determining what the pair is to do and instead I have us doing something else. This is described as back leading. Yes, backleading is leading, even if the movement is unintentional. Sigh.

While I find it a lot more fun to dance with leaders such as Linda, who knows (and leads!) lots of different (west coast swing) patterns, I also find it more difficult. There is more to distinguish, making perception harder. The two of us dance to the faster music, making keeping the connection harder, and she leads patterns with more direction-changing rotations, making my rotation harder. I must maintain my connection with a good dance frame, sharpen my perception skills to a variety of dance tempos, dancing patterns with direction-changing rotations. I am not complaining about the increased difficulty of me perceiving and acting on what is led. But those actions do reinforce my initial statement that following is not easy. Challenging my dance skills has the effect of making dancing more enjoyable for me, and hopefully for my dance partner as well. Isn't that the goal: to make dancing fun!